Overview of genetic research in anorexia nervosa: The past, the present and the future

Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Nov;48(7):814-25. doi: 10.1002/eat.22400. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Background: Even though the evidence supporting the presence of a heritable component in the aetiology of anorexia nervosa (AN) is strong, the underlying genetic mechanisms remain poorly understood. The recent publication of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of AN (Boraska, Mol Psychiatry, 2014) was an important step in genetic research in AN.

Objective: To briefly sum up strengths and weaknesses of candidate-gene and genome-wide approaches, to discuss the genome-wide association studies of AN and to make predictions about the genetic architecture of AN by comparing it to that of schizophrenia (since the diseases share some similarities and genetic research in schizophrenia is more advanced).

Method: Descriptive literature review.

Results: Despite remarkable efforts, the gene-association studies in AN did not advance our knowledge as much as had been hoped, although some results still await replication.

Discussion: Continuous effort of participants, clinicians and researchers remains necessary to ensure that genetic research in AN follows a similarly successful path as in schizophrenia. Identification of genetic susceptibility loci provides a basis for follow-up studies.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; candidate gene; genetic architecture; genetic overlap between disorders; genome-wide association; heritability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Research
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male